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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 39 |summer 2007 tion, we have hundreds of daylongs, which along with retreats provide the aspect of our mandala that has to do with integration and how we live. This would also include our Diversity Program, which is committed to offering the dharma to as diverse a population as possible; our Program for Socially Engaged Buddhists; our Family Pro- gram, for children and their parents; our Teen and Young Adult Program; and our Program for Yoga Teachers. To keep Spirit Rock connected to the core of our Buddhist tradition, we made a rule that when people outside our lineage come here to teach retreats, they would always be joined by one of our teachers in order to connect their teachings to our practice. In this way our core practices of gen- erosity, virtue, mindfulness, and loving-kindness are complemented by other lineages and skillful means. This practice holds even for masters like Tsoknyi Rinpoche. We respectfully asked him to teach at Spirit Rock because we highly value his teaching on Dzogchen. However, we explained that the way our com- munity works is that we try to have visiting teach- ings relate to our own tradition, and we asked if he would be comfort- able teaching with one of our teachers, such as Guy Armstrong or Ajahn Amaro. He said, “I love those guys. I love that monk. Sure, I will teach with them.” So we have had wonderful retreats with Tsoknyi Rinpoche and both Ajahn Amaro and Guy Armstrong on differ- ent occasions. While we are dedicated to preserving and sus- taining the core teachings of our lineage, we are also willing to be innovators, as indicated by our willingness to learn from many lineages. We draw wisdom from Western psychology; we have hosted a series of international teacher meetings over the past two decades; we have honored and embraced the feminine since the early years; we have been a pioneer in our Diversity Program; and we’ve been innovative in our teacher training and in our Com- munity Dharma Leader’s program, a two-and- half-year training regimen for senior vipassana students who wish to offer classes and daylong retreats to their local sanghas. We do our best to deal with our conflict openly, which is a life- long process. Our teachers and staff have trained in council practices and mindful listening. Now many of these areas are being developed at other centers. Commitment to diversity is spreading, the complementary value of Western psychology is widely being incorporated, women are becoming dharma leaders all over the West, and the major dharma traditions are learning from one another. In the eighties, our community was one of the first in the West to create an ethics council. Our ethics statement for Western teachers and communities has become a model for others. When we established Spirit Rock, our notion was to make the governance more egalitarian than traditional dharma centers. We wanted to have a dialogue that would integrate the wisdom of the dedicated community, board members, and teach- ers and guide the center. So instead of setting up a pyramid with guiding teachers at the top who make the main decisions for the board to enact, we set up two bodies – a board of directors and a teachers’ council – which have now come together to jointly carry the responsibility and the vision for Spirit Rock for the century ahead. It’s clear to me that we need a real coordination between teach- ers and community and board members. There’s a collective wisdom at the heart of Spirit Rock that we want to draw from. The board, teachers, staff, and community members are all long- term dharma students. We have a joint responsi- bility to ask, “How can we bring the blessings and freedom of the buddha- dharma to all who come to Spirit Rock, and how can we sustain this while working together as people who have different views? How can we make a collective of teachers and followers and practitioners who share different perspectives and yet underneath are really commit- ted to those essential dharma principles?” Our task is to preserve the practices of mind- fulness, loving-kindness, compassion, ethics, and virtuous conduct. We want to preserve the whole eightfold path. We want to foster the deepest teachings and practices we can to bring awaken- ing to all who practice with us. That’s what will sustain a healthy center and a healthy dharma stream, and bring benefit to the world. Our next step is to more fully support the hundreds of sit- ting groups, kalayanamitta senior-student groups, and community dharma centers that are growing around the country with this same open-hearted spirit. Of course, no matter what we do, we will be criticized as well as praised, so all we can do is stay true to our highest intentions. It’s a fantastic experiment that we’re all engaged in, bringing the dharma to the West. We’ll try our best, and if things work, wonderful, and if they seem to be unskillful, then we will stop doing them. That’s what’s called wisdom. No matter how it unfolds, it’s been a blessing and an honor to be part of it all. StephenBatCheloR The Residential Retreat Hall at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.